Stonecutters today have it way too easy. Companies like STONEGATE make cutting and shaping stone easier than before with advanced CNC tools. As a result, projects are often completed either ahead in time or within schedule. Now, try imagining what life was like for ancient stone cutters if they were working on a project that’s monumental in scale.
How about the Great Pyramid of Giza as an example?
A Testament to Human Ingenuity
There’s approximately 2.3 million blocks of either granite or limestone in the Great Pyramid. Each block weighs around 2.5 to 15 tons each. Take that in for a moment. Meanwhile, the outer shell (the surface) of the pyramid is made entirely out of Tura stone, a special type of limestone. On the Mohs scale of hardness, limestone scores a 4 out of 10. This is still pretty hard even if it’s on the lower half of the scale.
All the Ancient Egyptian craftsmen possessed were crude metal blades, usually made of bronze or iron. They had to be ingenious in terms of cutting the stones from the quarry. The workers used the likes of tube drills about 18 inches in diameter to cut away a slab of limestone. By placing the circular grooves in a way that they occasionally intersect, they were able to take the slab out and begin to move it.
Things get really tricky when you get to granite. This stone is what makes up the inner chambers and passageways of the pyramid, including the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus. As a reference, granite scores an 8 out of 10 on the Mohs scale. That’s pretty hard, and simple bronze and iron tools would’ve taken the workers an impractically long time just to quarry a single block.
So, how did they do it? After picking the right area to take a block from, the workers would work in groups of at least four people. One man sits on top of the slab holding an iron chisel. Three men with sledgehammers hit the chisel in turns. After each blow, the chisel is turned until it makes a hole 10-15 centimetres deep. These holes follow a line. After all holes are punched, wedges of wrought iron were gradually forced between the cracks, slowly splitting the slab.
The amount of work put into the Great Pyramid is near incomprehensible. No wonder why a lot of people thought that this incredibly precise feat of architecture and engineering was due to extraterrestrial intervention, instead of sheer human ingenuity.